Wednesday, 21 July 2004

Afternoon Subtext

It was my turn this afternoon to invigilate the show in the Long Gallery. Not a burdensome task, but not one involving any great excitement.

Several punters came and went. An MA student slopped past in shoes with no laces, dragging first a pile of paint cans on a trolley, then a compressor and spray gun.

A woman came in by mistake, thinking we were the show of false teeth and haphazardness next door in the public gallery. Finding we weren't, she looked uncomfortable and then asked which were my pictures.

"The ones in the middle," I said.

She stood for a while, then started to say "They're........" "......very individual."

On the basis that this was meant as a compliment, I thanked her, though it did feel like a compliment that had been searched for with care not to offend. She scuttled off, looking flustered.

One of the benefits of being in the University is that there are often students from other Departments looking for volunteers to help with their projects. So it was today. A guy from the Royal Victoria Infirmary over the road (a teaching hospital affiliated to the University) was doing some research into the workings of the brain.

Recognising that I might actually have a brain he asked me to don some headphones and listen to some sounds which would be repeated twice. All I had to do was tell him what I thought they were.

At first I hadn't a clue, but gradually the electronica gave way to distorted human voices.

The next stage involved my listening to various spoken sentences and repeating them back to him. Pretty easy, that one. They were something on the lines of :

  • Ben has corked two bottles.
  • Liz has crashed two cars.
  • Ben has driven a red car.
  • Don has a red car and a yellow car.
  • Liz has cracked two cups.
  • Finally, I had to listen to the original sound sequences and tell him if I thought any of them were the spoken sentences and to point out any words I recognised.

    I got soft cries of "Excellent!" several times on that one. Apparently, artists and musicians do better at this kind of recognition than non-creative people. I hope I might get to see the results of his research some time. Interesting.

    Even more interesting was the obvious subtext to this exercise. It became clear that:

    • Don is a rich bastard who has two cars.
    • Don is really pissed off with Liz because she has crashed both of his cars.
    • Ben is pissed off with Liz, because occasionally Don let's him drive the red car, but now he won't be able to borrow it because Liz has crashed it.
    • Ben makes his own wine, but the cups he used to drink it from have been cracked by Liz.
    • Liz is a real liability

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